House ethics panel seeks documents on misconduct complaints, settlements

The House Committee on Ethics asked the Office of Compliance to submit documentation about harassment and discrimination allegations in the House. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Dec. 1 (UPI) — The House Committee on Ethics on Friday requested documentation about all misconduct allegations about House members and their staffers in the wake of sexual harassment allegations in both chambers of Congress.

The panel sent a letter to the Office of Compliance, which oversees and enforces harassment and discrimination rules in Congress, signed by Chairwoman Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and ranking member Rep. Theodore Deutch, D-Fla.

In it, they ask for “all records in the possession of the Office of Compliance related to any claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or any other employment practice prohibited by the [Congressional Accountability Act] involving alleged conduct by any current member, delegate, resident commissioner, officer or employee of the House of Representatives.”

In a report released in November, the OOC said it has paid more than $17 million to settle 264 violations of the CAA since the office’s creation in 1997. That includes $27,000 it paid in 2014 for a wrongful dismissal complaint a former staffer filed against Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

The House ethics committee is investigating Conyers for allegedly terminating a former staffer for rejecting his sexual advances.

Also, Friday, the Committee on House Administration chairman, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., told ABC News that the OCC paid $84,000 for one sexual harassment complaint. ABC on Thursday reported $100,000 was paid to settle sexual harassment allegations by two staffers who worked for Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y.

Unnamed sources told Politico and NBC News that the $84,000 payment settled a sexual harassment complaint against Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. His former communications director, Lauren Greene, said she was fired after she complained about inappropriate comments Farenthold and a male staffer made to her.

“While I 100 percent support more transparency with respect to claims against members of Congress,” Farenthold said in a statement, “I can neither confirm nor deny that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics, which investigated the complaint, sent a letter to the House Committee on Ethics saying “there is not substantial reason to believe that Representative Farenthold sexually harassed or discriminated against [ex-staffer Lauren Greene], or engaged in an effort to intimidate, take reprisal against, or discriminate against [Greene] for opposing such treatment, in violation of House rules and federal law.”

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